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Against nature [Unknown Binding]

J.-K Huysmans
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1971)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00072QVDQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
Judging by the few portraits that have been preserved in the Chateau de Lourps, the line of the Floressas des Esseintes consisted, in bygone days, of muscular warriors and grim-looking mercenaries. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book 25 Aug 2008
By Michael Jacobs VINE VOICE
This is a very interesting novel; not only in terms of its content, but in terms of its function as a touchstone of decadent 1890s English literature. Indeed, it's rumored to be the novel which corrupts Dorian Gray in the Wilde novel of 1891.

A novel with only one main character sounds a bit strange. And it is. But rather than the focus being on linear plot, action or conventional emotions, the reader of this book - whilst carrying out their own solitary activity of reading - seems to form a symbiotic relationship with the book's protagonist, Des Esseintes. Reading about the things that this French loner does purely out of boredom is fascinating; indeed, the very act of reading about his mad experiments and activities gives the reader as great a hedonistic pleasure as it gives Des Esseintes himself by doing these things.

Whilst most people today associate money with being able to have a nice house, eat well, drive nice cars etc, this fictional account of a bored, rich man sees a much more fascinating way to toy with boredom and money. The translation is great, capturing Huysmans' tone and sentiment perfectly.

Reading this book will change your life.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Art 12 Mar 2009
For those looking for a great tale of adventure,intrigue or any other discernible genre stay away.

This book has a very very brief plot but that is the beauty of it. You get lost in the descriptions. The author paints a picture in your mind. It's easily one of the most enchanting books I've read.

I was truly absorbed in it, and upon finishing it realized that story was less interesting than anyone's life yet the descriptions will mesmerize and hold you to the end. Its almost a sensory overload.

Might be of interest to some others - this is presumably the ' yellow book ' that corrupts the main character in the picture of Dorian Gray

Highly recommended.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece 1 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Huysmans' fantastic novel has been influential on writers when it first came out and up to the present day, after all you can obviously see the beginnings of such novels as 'Perfume' amongst its pages. The only main character, Des Esseintes has lived a life that mirrors Dorian Gray, and Dorian indeed reads this book in The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics). You do get glimpses in this novel of Des Esseintes' hedonistic lifestyle before he seeks 'rest'. Told by his doctors that his lifestyle will kill him, Des Esseintes retires into seclusion and loneliness. However even here his life is full of eccentricity and dissipation.

Des Esseintes changes one lifestyle for another and contemplates upon a series of subjects in his new home that he has bizarrely furnished and fitted out. A weird and captivating tale this book is now a cult classic and has held people enthralled since its first publication, indeed it is difficult to put it down, and remains in the mind long after. As I wrote in my review for The Damned (Penguin Classics), Huysmans can write about literally anything and hold you in captivation, truly he was one of the worlds greatest writers. In this book mention is made of Barbey D'Aurevilly, and the bookLes Diaboliques: She Devils (Empire of the Senses). This is a book of short stories and is well worth a read.

Along with the story and an introduction you also get here Huysmans' preface written 20 years later, and also reviews and responses to the novel from such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola and Barbey D'Aurevilly, amognst others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 9 Oct 2013
It's a Great read, a really unusual book. It arrived on time, clear and easy to read, could do with a bit more of a conservative cover though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A diverse and malleable novel... 29 May 2012
By Joseph
Huysmans seems to have written a novel of simple plot, vain sympathies and marvellous aesthetics; however, this novel does a lot more than convey the coloured life of a certain bigotted intellect. One could perhaps even consider this book to act as prolepsis for twenty-first century novels such as Sartre's first published work, "Nausea", as its candid portrayal of a solitary life, and its effects on Des Essientes immediately promted recollections of the wandering mind of Roquentin as he strolled down the sea front in Bouville. Also, the tragedy of Des Essientes final prescription is one which leaves the reader in a deeply and profoundly melancholic state, as Des Essientes is served a treatment which, to him, is perhaps worse than death. As a social commentary it depicts a society finally surrendering to "human mediocrity" and a conformity and materialism that we know all too well today.

Calling this novel an aesthetical novel is essentially naive. This novel is so much more: a harrowing portrayal of the death of a kind of life. One man's battle with the world he lives in, grasping at the heels of the pleasures he loves in the vain hope that they'll stay. Not a perfect novel, but essential reading for any one who has read the likes of Wilde, Zola, Baudelaire, Sartre, or anyone at all concerned with France in the 19th century.
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